Thursday at Senior Bowl week marks the last day of practice before Saturday’s game. That means aside from Saturday, this was the last day of getting to observe players in pads. The NFL Combine is great in it’s own right, but it’s more just a test of athletics, while this week at the Senior Bowl it’s a true test of playing football. Here are some of my observations from the final day of practice at the Senior Bowl.
*He’s been good all week but Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon shined even more today. In receiving 1 on 1 drills he consistently routed up safeties and linebackers. Unless you’re Myles Jack, LBs have no chance trying to hang with Dixon out in the flat. There was one play where he was just running a basic arrow route into the flats, but he used his shiftiness and speed to plant and flatten out the route to create a lot of separation between himself and the defender. That obviously allows him space to get up field and start making people miss.
He also held his ground in pass protection. On his college tape, he was generally always in the right position, but there were some leveraging issues. That will always be the case with RBs blocking rushers that are larger than them, but I thought he did a nice job and showed that he’s capable of improving in that area as well. To me, he’s a sure fire 2nd rounder, and if the Cowboys want him, they’ll have to pluck him at 34.
I tried to speak with Kenneth Dixon after practice, but he was surrounded by close friends. I wouldn’t call it an entourage, I’d call it personal handlers. He’s not just an average joe, he’s got a chance to be a star.
*Carson Wentz was really good again today, particularly during redzone drills. One throw that stood out was to Ohio State TE Nick Vannett. With the defender draped all over him, Wentz threw the ball at the goal post, on the opposite side of the defender, leading Vannett to the touchdown. I thought he was more sharp today than yesterday, and really the only missing piece to the week is the game on Saturday. I still don’t like him more than Goff, but he’s definitely a first round player, who’s going to continue to rise assuming there are no setbacks throughout the draft process. I know I’m walking away from the week satisfied with what I saw, and it really makes me wish Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch were seniors so we could have seen them side by side.
*Braxton Miller had a great day at receiver, and has really captured everyone’s attention this week. Early in goal line drills, he faked a fade route, and cut inside turning it into a slant route, and basically ruining Deiondre Hall’s afternoon. After the TD, Hall and Miller took part in some trash talking, as Hall tried to save face. It was really impressive. Another play in redzone drills, Miller ran an out and in route that shook Minnesota CB Eric Murray and set the internet ablaze.
I was hoping to see Braxton return punts, but he caught a cramp and was limited for the rest of practice. Either way, I think it’s safe to say that Braxton Miller jumped up a lot of boards with his performance this week. I’m thinking if the Cowboys want him, they’ll have to take him at 34, otherwise he won’t be there.
*In the South practice, Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence beat LSU OT Vadal Alexander around the edge for a sack on the very first play of red zone drills. A couple plays later he easily got the edge on Texas Tech OT La’Raven Clark. Unless something crazy happens, there should be no debate about the first round status of Noah Spence!
*Back to the north practice, Virginia Tech DB Maurice Canady took snaps at safety in yesterday’s practice, but was primarily at CB again today. His problems happen when he can’t see the QB. When he can, he’s got great instincts, and his physical style of play is a good thing. When he can’t see the QB, his physical style of play is a bad thing, as he becomes grabby and on one instance didn’t get his head around to play the ball on the fade route.
*West Virginia safety Karl Joseph is a player I like quite a bit as a Day 2 of the draft type of player. He’s not at the senior bowl though. His old teammate K.J. Dillon also played safety and laid the lumber on RB D.J. Foster. Now i’ve gotta go back to Dallas and watch film on K.J. Dillon because that hit nearly made us break off into the Gulf of Mexico.
*San Jose State RB Tyler Ervin is not a name that I knew much about. A couple months ago, my program director Gavin Spittle asked me to watch tape on him and get back to him. We watched tape on him last week and now I got to see him in person. He had a huge year, running for 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns. He runs hard and shows quickness and toughness in the hole. One thing he lacked on film was pass protection, but in the competitive part of practice, Utah ILB Jared Morris rushed the passer and he held his ground and won the battle. He’s someone to consider late in the draft if you decide not to bring back Lance Dunbar. I’ve seen him compared to a poor man’s Darren Sproles, and that’s kind of the type of player he is, adding special teams return value as well.
*1-on-1 Pass Rush Drills gave us Notre Dame DT Sheldon Day playing DE, which is a position he played often in today’s practice. In consecutive reps he used quickness and then a bull rush to beat Indiana OT Jason Spriggs. Some see Spriggs as a Day 2 type of prospect. If that’s the case, then you better consider Sheldon Day a Day 2 prospect as well after the week he’s had.
*Zack Martin’s brother Nick Martin did a good job this week. He’s not a powerful player like his brother, but he has reliable feet and an understanding of how to not get beat. He took a lot of reps at guard as well to prove that he’s got some versatility. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the 3rd or 4th round.
*Austin Johnson the DT from Penn State overpowered Willie Beavers, but the awesomely named Beavers got revenge on the next play showing some anger and fight. Willie Beavers is a better pass blocker than run blocker and a late Day 3 type of guy in my mind. I think Austin Johnson’s week has been really solid, securing a first round grade.
*The obligatory USC QB Cody Kessler note of the day comes at you in the fashion of a poorly thrown interception into double coverage. He’s not an NFL prospect in my eyes.
*Kyle Fackrell is a OLB from Utah State who has generated some first round buzz. He struggled in 1-on-1 pass rush drills going up against Stanford OT Kyle Murphy. Murphy has been horrible this week. Fackrell fits as an edge rushing 3-4 OLB but this week he’s playing the strong side linebacker position in a 4-3. I see more of a 3rd round type of player.
*La’Raven Clark the OT from Texas Tech and Spencer Drango the OL from Baylor were really bad this week. Bummer. It didn’t help that they had to deal with Noah Spence a lot.
(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)